Don’t Forget Kid’s Play
p>Excerpt from Healthy Dog: The Ultimate Fitness Guide for You and Your Dog
Kids and dogs are great partners in play. Playing is important in the development of children and dogs. Dogs can be wonderful teaching tools for children because they give children a sense of safety and a feeling of love. Dogs can help teach empathy, responsibility, and pride to children. Playing in a positive environment can bolster confidence and teach both the benefits of true friendship. It’s best to select interactive games for your child and dog that promote teamwork, not competition. My favorites for children six years of age or older are:
Fetch. Have your child toss the toy and yell, “fetch.” Your child should then kneel down and tell your dog to drop it when he brings the toy back. Instruct your child never to grab the toy out of the dog’s mouth. If the dog won’t drop the toy, throw a second toy. Often the dog will drop the first toy to pursue the second. Your child should praise the dog each time he fetches the toy and drops it so he learns the rules of the game.
Where’s Sally? With your dog on a leash in the living room, tell your child to hide in a bedroom. Ask your dog to find your child by saying, “Where’s Sally? Find Sally.” Guide your dog slowly toward the bedroom and have your child make a noise to attract your dog’s attention. When he finds your child, offer praise. Gradually progress until your dog can find the child in the house without being leashed. This game helps reinforce the identities of everyone in the family.
Beat the clock. Get your dog into the play mode by attaching the leash to his collar and telling your child to say in an excited voice, “Okay, playtime!” Have your child jump up and down to get your dog happy and interested. Then in the middle of this fun folly, have your child give him a sit or stay command, and tell your child to remain silent. The second your dog obeys, instruct your child to shout praise. Instantly restart this highly animated game. In time, your dog will learn to respond to your child’s commands—even during times of excitement or distraction.
Find it. This game is ideal for the dog who goes gaga for tennis balls or squeaky toys. Give your dog the sit command and stand a few feet in front of him. Show him his favorite toy then have your child hide it nearby. Now say, “Where’s the toy? Find it.” When the dog goes to the toy, praise him and offer a small food treat. Gradually have your child place the toy in less visible places, such as in different rooms.